The death toll from a jihadist attack on two villages in western Niger at the weekend stands at 105, the UN said Thursday, adding that 10,000 people in the area had fled their homes.
Local officials previously said 100 people were killed in Saturday’s twin assaults, the highest civilian toll in the Sahel since jihadists launched a revolt in northern Mali in 2012 before advancing into Niger and Burkina Faso.
Jean-Sebastien Josset, spokesman for the UN’s High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) in the capital Niamey, said 32 people had been killed in the village of Zaroumadareye and 73 in Tchouma Bangou.
Twenty-six people suffered bullet wounds and “hundreds” of grain and forage stores were torched, he said.
“The number of people who have fled is now estimated at more than 10,000,” he told AFP, explaining that there had been an exodus from 12 other villages to the towns of Tondi Kiwindi and Mangaize. “The Nigerien authorities are providing primary aid, distributing food and money,” he said.
Scores of militants arrived on motorbikes to attack the villages, located in the jihadist-plagued region of Tillaberi, 120 kilometers (75 miles) north of the capital Niamey.
The region lies in the lawless “tri-border” area, where the frontiers of Niger, Mali, and Burkina Faso converge.
Thousands of civilians in the three countries have lost their lives in the long-running conflict and more than three million have been displaced, according to the UN.
Niger, which is between two rounds of presidential elections, is also fighting jihadists in the southeast of the country, who cross from neighboring Nigeria.